We can’t help it—one look into the Honda E’s retro-modern headlights and some MotorTrend journalists fell in love with the electric car as it made its way from a concept two years ago to a prototype earlier this year and now, a production car. At the 2019 Frankfurt auto show, we got a closer look at the production-ready Honda E, which goes on sale next summer in Europe. Honda hasn’t yet announced plans to sell the cute electric four-door hatch in the U.S., and after taking a closer look at the E as well as the also-new Volkswagen ID 3 electric hatch, we can see why.
But first, the positives. The Honda E electric car looks just as wonderful as you may recall from the two previous iterations. In person, the whole design is effective for those looking for a small car with premium details (like those awesome, vaguely Mercedes-reminiscent wheels). And unlike the much larger Civic hatch, the E doesn’t feel overstyled. At its press conference, Honda smartly left the E’s circular headlights on before the sheets were pulled off, enticing an audience that may recognize that retro design cue that’s also used on the Mercedes G-Class and Jeep Wrangler.
The premium-small-car feel continues inside, with matte wood-like trim that immediately reminds me of what’s inside the Honda Clarity (this is a good association). You’re instantly drawn to the dashboard of screens, which stretch from one side to another. Because Europe allows rear-facing cameras to take the place of full side mirrors, the Honda E is one of the latest cars to take advantage of this. So, the edge of the cabin has small screens to show what’s behind you; it remains to be seen how long it might take to get used to a screen inside the car instead of a simple mirror on the outside. Nevertheless, the effect of an interior full of screens nicely complements the car’s otherwise throwback styling.
Honda E Range, Pricing … and the Volkswagen ID 3
At its Frankfurt auto show conference, Honda mentioned that the E was designed and developed specifically for European customers. Many American customers probably would be just fine with an estimated 8.0-second acceleration run to 62 mph (100 kmh). But in an era of 259-range-mile Chevrolet Bolts and 300-plus-mile Teslas, many American customers might not be OK with the E’s range. According to Honda’s internal data, the E’s range will top out at 136 miles, and even then, if the E were ever to be measured against the EPA’s standards, that figure might shrink even further.
Honda already has 40,000 expressions of interest in the E electric car, which is impressive. Pricing will start (in the UK) at 26,160 pounds for a 100-kW model. Volkswagen hasn’t yet released UK pricing on its new ID 3 electric hatch (also not coming to the U.S.), but that more spacious car has been promised at under 30,000 euros, similar to Honda’s German-market estimate. In other words, the VW appears to offer a bigger package with a range of just over 200 miles in its base model (on European WLTP standards; it’d be lower in the U.S.).
If size isn’t a factor, however, the cute Honda E electric car appears to be positioned as a slightly premium-design entry for buyers who only plan on urban driving. Take away the Volkswagen’s chunky show-car wheels and the ID 3 almost looks like a next-gen Golf variant—cool, but not as charming as the Honda. Neither car may be coming to the U.S., but we look forward to driving these electric cars from Volkswagen and Honda.
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